Indian fiction

All posts in the Indian fiction category

Mini Pin-It Reviews #7 – Four Random Books

Published March 21, 2017 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four “random” books for you that I simply couldn’t categorise – please see my pin it thoughts below!

1.) Everything I Needed To Know About Being A Girl I Learned From Judy Blume – edited by Jennifer O’Connell

What’s it all about?:

“”I wonder if Judy Blume really knows how many girls’ lives she affected. I wonder if she knows that at least one of her books made a grown woman finally feel like she’d been a normal girl all along. . . .”” — FROM Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume.

Whether laughing to tears reading “Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great” or clamoring for more unmistakable “me too!” moments in “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” girls all over the world have been touched by Judy Blume’s poignant coming-of-age stories. Now, in this anthology of essays, twenty-four notable female authors write straight from the heart about the unforgettable novels that left an indelible mark on their childhoods and still influence them today. After growing up from “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” into “Smart Women,” these writers pay tribute, through their reflections and most cherished memories, to one of the most beloved authors of all time.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

2.) The Girl In The Red Coat – Kate Hamer

What’s it all about?:

She is the missing girl. But she doesn’t know she’s lost.

Carmel Wakeford becomes separated from her mother at a local children’s festival, and is found by a man who claims to be her estranged grandfather. He tells her that her mother has had an accident and that she is to live with him for now. As days become weeks with her new family, 8-year-old Carmel realises that this man believes she has a special gift…

While her mother desperately tries to find her, Carmel embarks on an extraordinary journey, one that will make her question who she is – and who she might become.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

 four-stars_0

3.) The Accidental Apprentice – Vikas Swarup

What’s it all about?:

From the author of the book behind the blockbuster movie Slumdog Millionaire, a brilliant novel about life changing in an instant.

Life pivots on a few key moments. This is one of them.

Sapna Sinha works in an electronics store in downtown Delhi. She hates her job, but she is ambitious and determined to succeed, and she knows without the money she brings in, her family won’t be able to survive. Little does she know it but her life is about to change forever.

As she leaves the shop on her lunch break one day, she is approached by a man who claims to be CEO of one of India’s biggest companies. He tells her he is looking for an heir for his business empire. And that he has decided it should be her.

There are just seven tests she must pass. And then the biggest lottery ticket of all time will be hers.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

4.) Bats Sing, Mice Giggle: The Surprising Science of Animals Inner Lives – Karen Shanor and Jagmeet Kanwal

What’s it all about?:

“Amazing, moving and enlightening. Bats Sing, Mice Giggle presents the latest findings on the intimate lives of animals with great elegance. I recommend it wholeheartedly.”—Larry King

“Did you know that spiders taste with their feet, that a decapitated cockroach can live for two weeks, that a certain type of parrotfish wraps itself in a sort of foul-smelling snot before taking a nap, and that ants play? I didn’t until I read Bats Sing, Mice Giggle.” New Scientist

“Full of interesting facts . . . presented in a friendly, readable way that will appeal to most young adult and adult readers with an interest in the world around them. The authors discuss a remarkably wide range of topics [in] an easy general-reading text that introduces readers to interesting avenues of scientific research and observation.”—SB&F

“In the delightful process of discovering the secret skills of our living cousins, so crisply and clearly described in this book, each filled with their quirky spectacular capacities (which we can envy but not duplicate) that sense of our place in the scheme of things has been infused with . . . joyful awe.”—Stuart L. Brown MD, Founder and President, The National Institute for Play

Bats Sing, Mice Giggle is the culmination of many years of cutting-edge scientific research that reveals how animals have secret, inner lives of which until recently—although animal lovers will have instinctively believed it—we have had little proof.

The authors show how animals communicate; how they warn and help each other in times of danger; how some problem-solve even more effectively than humans; and how they build, create, and entertain themselves and others.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP SOON ON MINI PIN IT REVIEWS: Four YA Books.

The Coral Strand – Ravinder Randhawa

Published March 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

28667695

What’s it all about?:

From English winters to Indian summers. From the cold streets of modern Britain to the glamorous, turbulent and impassioned world of 1940’s Mumbai.

Each year, Sita makes a mysterious journey to the Mausoleum, the place of dark memories and warped beginnings. She goes to spy on Emily and Champa, the strange ‘guardians’ she once escaped, and on whom she had taken a daring revenge. This year proves to be fatefully different… This year, the terrible secrets of the past are starting to emerge; secrets that inexorably link the three women to each other, to the grey-eyed stranger Kala, and to an altogether different world – the glittering, violent and passionate world of 1940’s Mumbai.

Ravinder Randhawa’s women, caught in a desperate fight for survival, cross taboos and forbidden lines in this richly plotted novel, imbued with fascinating historical detail, and the beauties of place and period. Readers of modern and historical novels alike will enjoy Randhawa’s evocative portrait of the compelling relationship between Britain and India, which continues to enthrall and engage us.

What did I think?:

I first came upon Ravinder Randhawa’s writing when a blogger friend Faye, from A Daydreamer’s Thoughts (who is also a freelance PR) asked me if I would be interested in reading her book A Wicked Old Woman – check out my thoughts on the book HERE. Now one of Ravinder’s other titles, The Coral Strand has recently been released here in the UK by Troubador Publishing and I was delighted to receive a copy in the post so that I could compare and contrast the two. Many thanks to all involved! Like the author’s previous novel, A Coral Strand hosts a variety of different characters both of Indian and British descent or a mixture of the two and there are a couple of different story-lines going on that although I found it difficult to follow at the beginning, merged together quite satisfyingly by the end of the novel.

My favourite thing about this book however, was that it was set across two different timelines. The first is in England, more specifically London in the late nineties where we follow a young woman called Sita as she desperately tries to put the dizzying puzzle pieces of her family together so that they make some sort of sense and so she can finally have a sense of belonging which she has lacked for much of her early life. It’s all a bit vague to begin with, the details are hazy and to be honest, the reader feels as much in the dark as Sita herself as she wonders over her strange peculiarities of a family. She is raised in a household with two very strong female characters, Emily and Champa, (who she amusingly refers to as The Mutant Memsahib and Champa Dumpa) neither of which are her mother. I don’t really want to give too much away about the plot but Sita ends up running away from the house or “The Mausoleum,” as she refers to it with arm-loads of expensive jewellery which in fact, end up being the solution to the mystery of where she comes from.

The second timeline and the one I enjoyed most is set some years earlier in 1935-1942 Bombay, now Mumbai, India and it focuses on Emily Miller, a recently married woman who has moved to India with her husband Thomas who is based over there. After leaving a dead-end job in a factory and being promised the world or if not the world, at least a palace to live in with servants at her beck and call, Emily is ecstatic about her new higher standing but she seems to have been grossly misinformed about her lot in life as shortly after they are married, Thomas is killed in suspicious circumstances. With barely a penny to her name and a reputation to uphold, Emily must use every bit of fight in her to create a lavish lifestyle to which she has already become accustomed and believes she deserves.

However, in creating “The English Rose Garden,” with Champa (her husband’s favourite “lady of the night”) and her servant known only as Girl, she also invites some rather sinister creatures to share her bed (yes, quite literally!). When all hell breaks loose, Emily, Champa and Girl are forced to flee back to the safe waters of England where Emily is determined to maintain her extravagant, lady of leisure position, something which she finds quite difficult as she struggles with the behaviour and actions of Girl and in recent years, Sita and has to face up to a past that comes back to haunt her.

This all may seem a little complicated and it was confusing for me also at first, especially when a number of minor characters are added into the mixture that provide further secrets and hardship for all concerned in a convoluted plot that takes a while to get to grips with. I didn’t really have a favourite character as such – they were all flawed in some way but this did make them ultimately more interesting and I enjoyed the whole process of trying to figure them out. I did find myself feeling quite sorry for all of them in different ways, especially Girl and Sita who did not seem to have much choice in their own situations or control over their own fate until they both admirably begin enforcing their own independence and rebelling against the tyrannical Emily. If I had to compare it with A Wicked Old Woman, I would probably say I enjoyed this story more, it seemed to have characters that were more readable and in general, a plot that was more structured with a definitive ending. Personally, I feel that the author has really found her voice and a great style with this novel and I wouldn’t hesitate to read another one from her.

The Coral Strand was released on 28th February 2016 by Troubadour Publishing. Many thanks to them and to Faye Rogers for allowing me to read a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Between The Assassinations – Aravind Adiga

Published February 4, 2016 by bibliobeth

7094989

What’s it all about?:

Welcome to Kittur, India. Of its 193,432 residents, only 89 declare themselves to be without religion or caste. And if the characters in Between the Assassinations are any indication, Kittur is an extraordinary crossroads between the brightest minds and the poorest morals, the up-and-coming and the downtrodden, and the poets and the prophets of an India that modern literature has rarely addressed.

A series of sketches that together form a blinding, brilliant, and brave mosaic of Indian life as it is lived in a place called Kittur, Between the Assassinations, with all the humor, sympathy, and unflinching candor of The White Tiger, enlarges our understanding of the world we live in today.

What did I think?:

I had high hopes for Between The Assassinations after really enjoying the authors previous novels, Last Man In Tower and the Man Booker Prize winner The White Tiger. I have to admit to unfortunately being slightly disappointed with this offering and it was only after reading a few other reviews that I discovered that this book was allegedly rejected by publishers and it was only released after Adiga’s Booker win. That’s not to say this novel is a bad read because it certainly isn’t, perhaps it was my own high expectations that ruined it for me! It does have decent and some very favourable reviews on GoodReads but on average it comes in at 3.30 which is about where I would put it myself on the rating chart.

Regular readers of my blog may wonder why I haven’t included this book in my regular feature, Short Stories Challenge as this book consists of fourteen short stories that are very loosely linked together but all have the common theme of being situated in one town in India, Kittur. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t aware that the book was a series of short stories but it was quite nice to read all of them in one sitting rather than how I usually structure short stories from the same collection. The aim of this book was to paint a portrait of Kittur over a seven day period using fourteen separate stories with very different characters in each. In this way, I believe the book completely hit the target – we hear from a wide variety of personalities, all with an exclusive moral code, belief or dream to follow.

In Between The Assassinations the author gives us the good, the bad and the downright ugly in a country that is slowly rising up from an economic mess to become a real power in the world but still houses a vast amount of poverty, corruption and violence. I found it fascinating to learn about both sides of the coin, for example the bicycle wallah who burns off more calories working than he is ever able to replace and is at risk of dying from exhaustion before he is forty or the children who beg on the streets to fund their father’s drug addiction. When you compare this to the wealthy (and often corrupt in this novel) it does touch something within you and I was often reeling with the unfairness of it all.

Religion also causes many problems in this book, as it does unfortunately through the entire world, and Adiga explores not just the three main religions in India (Muslim, Hindu and Christian) but the ever ominous caste system which includes a class of people so low in status that they are referred to as “the untouchables.” India has moved slightly forward in adopting modern values regarding this system but it is clear that a lot of work still needs to be done. For me, the best thing about this book was that I felt I was getting a real, no holds-barred insight into India during an interesting period of her history (between the assassinations of Indira Ghandi and her son Rajiv). Adiga pulls no punches with his descriptive and very raw writing at times and I really appreciated his honesty. The only reason I’ve given this book an “average,” rating is that although the stories kept me interested I didn’t find the writing as amazing as his previous two novels.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

1024px-Cycle_rickshaw_wallah_in_DhakaImage from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACycle_rickshaw_wallah_in_Dhaka.jpg

By Steve Evans from India and USA (Dhaka, Bangladesh) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Short Stories Challenge – Bibhutibhushan Malik’s Final Storyboard by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Published December 29, 2015 by bibliobeth

12364183

What’s Bibhutibhushan Malik’s Final Storyboard all about?:

Bibhutibhushan is an art director working for a now very famous Indian film director but he has always been keen to break away from his friend an develop and produce his own film. There’s only one problem – he’s in love with the director’s wife.

What did I think?:

I Am An Executioner is without a doubt one of my favourite books in my short stories challenge and I was excited to read the next story in the collection, especially one with such an intriguing title. For the most part, I was delighted with it although I have to admit I was disappointed with the ending, which if done differently might have led to me giving this story the full five stars. Our narrator for this outing is the Bibhutibhushan Malik of the title who has been the production designer for all of popular Indian director Jogesh Sen’s films and, as we find out, has known him well before his current days of dizzying fame and fortune.

However, Malik has two secrets. First, he longs to write his own screenplay and has been beavering away for the last two years on an idea which has recently been taken up by an independent film director in New York. Secondly, he has been having an affair with Sen’s wife, Nirmala for the past two years. Malik is so secure in his perceived abilities and talents that he tells Nirmala that she will be able to leave her husband and be with him very soon as his picture is sure to be a roaring success and he will be able to keep her in the state that she has become accustomed to.

Malik’s super-confidence knows no boundaries and he boasts to the reader countless times on how Sen would be nothing without him and it is his beautiful designs and ideas that make the films as successful as they are. Of course, the reader must trust him as we don’t know any different. It is only after Malik gets his opportunity to shine that we begin to realise that perhaps he isn’t as great as he thinks he is? Nevertheless, I did find myself feeling terribly sorry for him as things begin to unravel and his (deluded) little bubble is well and truly popped.

It’s only as I’m writing this review that I’m starting to realise how clever this story actually is. I completely bought into the romance between Malik and Nirmala (even if it is a naughty little affair) and found myself analysing everything and everyone through his eyes. What the author does next is nothing short of brilliant – things are turned completely on their head and you begin to question what you previously thought was true. I love stories that trick me in this manner, challenge me and then make me want to start again with my newly acquired information! I do think the ending could have been a little snappier and had the potential to be phenomenal but this is still one of my favourite stories of the collection.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Jesus Stories by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Blog Tour – A Wicked Old Woman by Ravinder Randhawa

Published December 5, 2015 by bibliobeth

wicked woman1

I am delighted to be taking part in a blog tour for acclaimed author Ravinder Randhawa’s new novel, A Wicked Old Woman, organised by the lovely Faye, a freelance PR and book blogger extraordinaire! To visit her blog A Daydreamer’s Thoughts, please click HERE.

26856759

What’s it all about?:

Drama. Masquerade. Mischief.

A sharply observed, witty and confident novel. Linguistically playful, entertaining and provoking.

In a bustling British city, Kulwant mischievously masquerades as a much older woman, using her walking stick like a Greek chorus, ‘…stick-leg-shuffle-leg-shuffle…’ encountering new adventures and getting bruised by the jagged edges of her life. There’s the glamorous rebel who rescues her after a carefully calculated fall; Caroline, her gregarious friend from school days, who watched over her dizzy romance with ‘Michael the Archangel’, and Rani/Rosalind, who’s just killed a man …

Vividly bringing to life a bit of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

What did I think?:

After reading the synopsis of this novel, I was immediately intrigued and when invited to take part in a blog tour for the author, Ravinder Randhawa, I knew it was a story I had to read. Fiction about India has always been a bit of a passion of mine, whether set in India or in another country, usually England in my experiences. It encompasses a wide range of characters, all of whom have very different outlooks on what it has meant to be someone of Indian culture living in Britain through three decades of our history.

Generally, we tend to see life and the lives of others through the eyes of Kulwant who in the present time, is often accompanied by her stick and somewhat of a prickly, closed disposition. Of course there are reasons why she is so guarded, as the story continues and she reflects on her past we learn about the break-down of her marriage, her strained relationship with some of her children and a friendship that has lasted throughout the years, with Caroline, a white British woman who has been Kuli’s staunchest supporter. Their relationship was probably my favourite in the novel, I loved that Caroline took Kuli under her wing so that she did not feel as much of an outsider at school and is a driving force in the present to make sure Kuli is happy and makes the most of her life.

The supporting characters of this cast also play fantastic roles in this novel. We have poetic “Michael the Archangel” who asked for Kuli’s hand in marriage (and was gently let down) to “Myopic Maya,” who has had her own share of heart break but really comes into her own by the end of the story and finally, Rani/Rosalind whose sad state of affairs really tugged at my emotions. I have to admit that at points I did feel a little confused about what was going on exactly and I think that’s probably because I picked up and put down the book quite a few times. This book would probably benefit by being read in one or two sittings and it’s length (235 pages in my edition) means that this is a possibility. Once I had read a few pages however and was used to the style of writing, I really enjoyed the flow and meaning behind the novel.

Being a white British woman myself, I probably can’t completely understand or relate to what the author was describing in the novel i.e. how to live in a country where the culture is different from what you are born into, but I believe she got the message across very well and there were some beautiful moments. Reading her words feels almost like poetry and she has a real flair for language – in fact, there are wonderful, emotive lines on almost every page:

“…progress won’t come by changing a brick here and there, the whole structure was suspect and should be challenged as a whole.”

As a means of furthering my own education about Indian culture, this book definitely did the job and as a novel generally, it’s a fantastic piece of work that I think most people will be able to identify with even if there are differences in race. I learned a lot and will be thinking about some of these characters for a while as a result of this story.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Intrigued? Want to know more? Make sure you check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour!

awickedoldwomanblogtourbanner4 (1)

wickedauthor

RAVINDER RANDHAWA – A BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ravinder Randhawa is the acclaimed author of the novels Beauty and the Beast (YA), A Wicked Old Woman, The Tiger’s Smile and the short story collection Dynamite. She’s currently working on a trilogy: The Fire-Magician. Ravinder was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Toynbee Hall, Queen Mary’s University, the University of London, and founded the Asian Women Writer’s Collective.

Ravinder was born in India, grew up in leafy Warwickshire, now lives in London and agrees with Samuel Johnson’s saying (though of course, in a gender non-specific way) ‘…if a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’ Loves good coffee and really good thrillers.

Author Links Website: http://www.ravinderrandhawa.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RealRavs

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ravinderrandhawaauthor

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3518698.Ravinder_Randhawa

 

 

 

 

 

Short Stories Challenge – Demons by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner

Published March 17, 2015 by bibliobeth

12364183

What’s Demon’s all about?:

Demon’s tells the story of how a woman’s Thanksgiving preparations put her husband to eternal rest.

What did I think?:

Quite a few of the stories in this collection that I have read so far have packed an emotional punch and Demon’s is no exception starting with the first incredible few lines:

“When the phone rang the night before Thanksgiving, Savitri Veeraghavan was doing her best to forget that her husband, Ravi, lay dead on the living room floor.”

How could anyone not read on after a sentence like that? One of the strangest things about this event for the reader to find out is that Savitri has left her husband on the floor where he died and starts to cook, which it is obvious that she relishes and does the trick of calming her down somewhat. She begins ruminating about the past, in particular her marriage to Ravi, which even although the pair felt completely comfortable with each other in the way of so many long partnerships, was not without its share of problems.

Savitri has a job assembling and testing circuit boards under an English boss, Philip who is the epitome of everything she wants in a man. Indeed Savitri tells us that if only he was Indian, she would have introduced him to her daughter Radhu who is away at university. It seems that the independence Savitri craves is only given to her when she works as her husband insists on accompanying and picking her up to each outing and will not take no for an answer. This particular weekend, he is waiting for her to finish work and although Philip tells her that her husband is waiting for her in the car, she dreads leaving work to enter the reality of her married life.

As Savitri gets into the car, Ravi is complaining (as usual) of being unwell and having to pick her up, even though he wouldn’t have it any other way. Savitri seems to have a shorter fuse than normal today and snaps at her husband, considering how much better her life would be if he wasn’t around:

“What if you weren’t here? Would it be as bad? No arguments on the ride home. No more of your fussy demands, unrealistic expectations, strange insecurities. I could live without you to monitor everything, I could live as I alone wanted.”

And then Savitri hears a small voice, not heard or spoke by her husband:

“Asthu, asthu. Make it so.”

By the time they get back home, Ravi is dreadfully ill, too sick even to park the car so they leave it in the drive and go inside where Ravi instantaneously keels over, dead. Savitri is racked with guilt and this may explain some of her odd behaviour. She is instantly transported back to her childhood where she wished that her brother would be hurt. Coincidentally, her brother does graze his forehead after an accident that day and Savitri’s mother is furious, explaining that the asura ganas had answered her wish, making her bow for forgiveness by the family altar. These entities are described as “bastard cousins of the gods,” and are tiny demons that can cause anything that their victim may be thinking to become a reality.

The rest of the story deals tells of Savitri’s struggles with her husband’s death and her inner turmoil of guilt, feeling that she caused Savitri’s death by wishing it. Desperate to turn to someone for advice she tries to call her daughter, Radhu at university but she cannot come to the phone. We also learn that Savitri is a bit stifling and over-protective of her daughter and calls her multiple times a day. She even attends a Thanksgiving lunch at her friends, leaving her dead husband behind on the floor. Her behaviour at the party raises a few eyebrows whilst her inner emotions rage deep within. Does she manage to admit what has happened? I won’t spoil anything, that’s for you to find out!

Once again, Rajesh Parameswaran has written an absolutely captivating story that held me spellbound throughout. All of the stories in this collection focus on love of some shape or form and I was fascinated by the way he crept into the “behind close doors” secrets of a long marriage. The other characters such as Savitri’s best friend, Poornima who holds the lunch and the daughter Radha don’t get quite as much attention but I thought it was a really effective technique in focusing on Savitri, her regrets and beliefs, and the way in which she chooses to accept her husband’s death. It’s one of my favourite stories in the collection so far and one that is definitely worth a read. Let me know your thoughts if you’ve read it too!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Ceiling by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

 

Short Stories Challenge – Four Rajeshes by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Published May 9, 2014 by bibliobeth

12364183

What’s Four Rajeshes all about?:

An explosive, funny, wildly original fiction debut: nine stories about the power of love and the love of power, two urgent human desires that inevitably, and sometimes calamitously, intertwine.
In I Am an Executioner, Rajesh Parameswaran introduces us to a cast of heroes—and antiheroes—who spring from his riotous, singular imagination. Four Rajeshes tells the story of a railroad manager who appears to get more than he bargained for when he employs a young man called R. to be his secretary.

What did I think?:

I was slightly apprehensive before beginning the third story in this excellent debut collection, purely because I gave five stars to both the previous stories so went into this one with slightly raised expectations. The tale begins where an unnamed person is looking at a photograph of a man he believes to be his ancestor, one P. Rajarajeshwaran Iyer who was the manager of a railway station in the small Indian dwelling of Rombachinnapattinam, which happened to be his own ancestral village. The man in question is actually our narrator for the story and we learn about certain events that unfolded when on the spur of the moment, he employed a poor young man known only as R. to be his secretary when he approaches him and begs for work. Our narrator is quite a complex character – he is immensely proud of his status as manager of the railway and has recently become engaged to his supervisors niece, the thought of which is making him incredibly anxious. You see our narrator has leanings towards the same sex, and often uses one of his employees – a young man called Dhananjayan for affection and release.

Things become slightly more confusing for our narrator when he dictates his first letter to his new employee, R. On examining the letter afterwards, he sees that the boy has a beautiful hand yet halfway through the letter it resembles nothing but an indecipherable scrawl with strange illegible symbols throughout. When he questions R. the boy seems quite confused and his only excuse is that he may have become distracted. When this happens a second time, our narrator becomes worried but does not want to lose a diligent employee and excuses him from dictation duties. Then our narrator has to leave the station one day in the hands of Dhana and R. during the preparations for his upcoming nuptials. On returning, future family in tow, the station is in chaos. A train has not departed on time, a crowd has gathered and Dhana is in tears, blaming R. for the upheaval. When our narrator gets past the amused, staring crowd, he sees R. who has been scrawling all over the walls in chalk, the same strange symbols and writings that no-one is able to understand. Apoplectic with rage, our narrator strikes the boy and orders him out of his sight. But then R. goes missing and our narrator becomes frantic to find him, especially after seeing a story in a newspaper that couldn’t possibly be about R. could it?

I’m sorry to say I didn’t enjoy this story as much as I did the previous two in the collection, but as I said earlier I did have very high expectations. The author clearly has a gift and a knack for story-telling, and I was intrigued throughout about the character of R. while trying to figure out what exactly was going on. I love the traditional Indian and cultural influences that resonate clearly throughout the story which made what I was reading feel so authentic – I could almost see, hear and smell everything that was written. As a short piece of fiction it is one of the highest quality and although I was intensely frustrated by the ending it was all for the greater good, as I find myself going over it again and again in my mind. Bring on the next one!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: Apples by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky